Relatives of the kidnapped South Koreans in Afghanistan wait for television news about them on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea.
Relatives of the kidnapped South Koreans in Afghanistan wait for television news about them on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. Getty Images
Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images
President Hamid Karzai criticized the Taliban's kidnapping of "foreign guests," saying it violates the tenets of Islam and national traditions. Afghan authorities have demanded the release of 16 women among 23 South Korean Christian aid workers held by the Taliban, most of them said to be ill after 11 days in captivity.
Park Chang-ki/AP Photos
Korean presidential envoy Baek Jong-chun said South Korea will respect the Afghan government's way of ending the crisis.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Protestors participate in an anti-war rally calling for the safe return of South Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea.
Protestors participate in an anti-war rally calling for the safe return of South Koreans kidnapped in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Afghanistan's political and religious leaders attempted to shame the Taliban into releasing the 18 female South Korean captives by invoking Islamic traditions of chivalry.
In his first comments since the 23 South Koreans were abducted on July 19, Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized the Taliban's kidnapping of "foreign guests," saying it violates the tenets of Islam and national traditions.
"The perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values," Karzai told a South Korean envoy during a meeting at the presidential palace, according to a statement from his office
But a purported Taliban spokesman shrugged off the demands and instead set a new deadline for the hostages' lives, saying the militants could kill one or all of the 22 captives if the government does not release 23 militant prisoners by 3:30 a.m. on Monday.
Several earlier deadlines passed without killings. A leader of the group was shot and killed on Wednesday for unknown reasons.
Afghan officials reported no progress in talks with tribal elders to secure freedom for the hostages. Their church has said the Koreans were in the country to provide medical and volunteer services.
In a meeting with Karzai, Korean presidential envoy Baek Jong-chun thanked the president for the Afghan government's help and said South Korea will respect the government's way of ending the crisis, according to Karzai's office.
Echoing Karzai's words, Afghanistan's national council of clerics said the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, taught that no one has the right to kill women.
"Even in the history of Afghanistan, in all its combat and fighting, Afghans respected women, children and elders," the council said. "The killing of women is against Islam, against the Afghan culture, and they shouldn't do it."
Former Taliban commander and current lawmaker who has joined the negotiations, Abdul Salaam Rocketi, said the government policy was that the "women should be released first."
But the Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, instead invoked the religious tenet of "an eye for an eye," alleging that Western militaries are holding Afghan females at bases in Bagram and Kandahar, and saying that the Taliban can do the same. He said the Taliban could detain and kill "women, men or children."
"It might be a man or a woman. ... We may kill one, we may kill two, we may kill one of each (gender), two of each, four of each," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by satellite phone from an unknown location. "Or we may kill all of them at once."
Ahmadi said the militant group had given a list of 23 insurgent prisoners it wants released to government officials and that if they weren't freed by midday Monday hostages would be killed.
The South Koreans were kidnapped while traveling by bus on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Afghanistan's main thoroughfare. Their church has said the captives were not involved in Christian missionary work in Afghanistan. The church will suspend some of its volunteer work in the country.
Two days of meetings between elders of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, where the South Korean hostages were kidnapped, and a delegation of senior officials from Kabul yielded no results so far, said Shirin Mangal, spokesman for the Ghazni provincial governor.
The meeting was being held behind closed doors, and Mangal did not divulge any details.
From The Associated Press.